2020 has been the year of rest for me. Strangely enough, telling myself that all I wanted to achieve this year was mental and physical rest and restoration was not easy. I assumed continuing the therapy that I started in 2019 would be easy (mostly because in 2019 I was just scratching the surface of my inner issues), I thought focusing on my physical health would be easy, and I thought releasing energy that no longer served me (people) would be simple.
And yet, this year has not been easy. Mostly because I had to face the fact that all of the personal wins I desired were wildly uncomfortable to go through. Even though I knew I wanted to let go of certain people, and at the same time seek out new relationships, I struggled with both due to fear and pride. Part of my fear of letting go was me thinking that I was repeating old patterns of treating people as disposable. Part of that fear was also me thinking that I hadn’t done enough to try and ‘fix’ the relationships that I already had.
What I came to realize through therapy was that I had a limited understanding of my anxious/avoidant attachment styles. Figuring out my attachment behaviours was hard because a lot of the literature that I seemed to find focused on romantic relationships. As someone who has really only had one real relationship, and a few “situationships”, I was lost when reading books my therapist recommended to me.
Once I allowed myself to focus on both romantic and platonic relationships in my life, figuring out my avoidant/disconnection patterns pushed me to understand why I sometimes see people as disposable, while thinking about anxious attachment showed me why I would put so much time and effort into nurturing relationships with people who could not reciprocate.
I’ll be venturing into my 30s soon, and it’s made me want to focus more on breaking unhealthy cycles that I perpetuate for myself. I think I have a little issue talking out loud about my avoidant tendencies, which might be due to how normalized being emotionless is, but my anxious attachment has been a lot more challenging to admit to because of how emotionally exposed it makes me feel.
When I think back to my significant romantic relationship from a few years ago, I realized that I was dating a dude who was the epitome and/or prototypes for avoidant attachment. He made me feel that I was asking for ‘too much’, but had no issue asking for exactly what he was unwilling to give. At the same time, he would make cloaked accusations that my love for him was not real and that I didn't really see a future with him (even though I explicitly showed him through words and actions that I did). For some reason, instead of reading into his accusations as a sign that he was the one who had an issue to work on, and that I should probably leave him, I found myself trying harder to show him how much I cared - which led to me giving up many of my own needs to please him. I continued to give my time and energy to him without him reciprocating. Even though I would communicate that his behaviour was unfair, I was shamed into thinking that my feelings weren’t valid. Ultimately, I became resentful of him and also resentful of myself because of how hurt I felt.
As this year continues, I have spent time thinking about my relationship with my ex and how it relates to people currently in my life. The truth is that I still am not fully aware of how to move forward with certain people in my life, or if I even want to move forward with them at all. What I do know is that I am uncomfortable, and that is a good thing. It shows me that I am working through my avoidant issues because I am no longer ignoring phone calls out of pride, instead I do so out of respect for my own boundaries. Being uncomfortable also shows me that I am more aware of the anxious patterns that push me to give without getting. I now understand how much I need reciprocal affection, both platonically and romantically, and that I need to set firmer boundaries with those who cannot provide.
Writing this piece is also really uncomfortable for me because I usually only speak to a handful of people about my emotions and feelings (and even then I apparently do so in a very “matter of fact” manner). I tried to think of other things to write about to avoid this topic, but I couldn’t put any words on paper. If anyone reading this is learning and unlearning their own attachment patterns, please reach out to me. I think we can support each other.
Attached: Are you Anxious, Avoidant or Secure? by Dr. Amir Levine & Rachel S.F. Heller
To Learn more about relationships and healing, listen to: Episode #56 Breaking Healthy Relationship Cycles and Healing Within by Black Girl Heals Podcast
If you’re in need of setting boundaries for those around you read: The Relationships In Your Life That Are Desperately In Need Of Boundaries